MANILA -- The COVID-19 pandemic brought the whole world to a grinding halt. In the Philippines, the government, non-government organizations, the health sector, and various other groups have been ramping up efforts to aid the millions who have been directly and indirectly affected by the disease.
One of these groups is the Congregation of the Mission (CM) through its COVID-19 Vincentian Response and Assistance to the Poor Program or simply Vincent Helps, named after the group’s patron St. Vincent de Paul.
In an online interview with ABS-CBN News, Fr. Geowen A. Porcincula, CM, head of operations of Vincent Helps, talked about the humble beginnings and the current efforts of the Program.
“Vincent Helps started as De Paul House’s (a theological seminary of the CM) pastoral response to the Taal Volcano eruption last January 12, 2020,” shared Fr. Porcincula. “The seminarians and formators of the two seminaries in Tandang Sora, together with the students of St. Vincent School of Theology, collaborated to organize a response to the eruption. Thus, the birth of Vincent Helps.”
Since the start of the enhanced community quarantine, Vincent Helps has been working double time to extend a helping hand to some of the most vulnerable sectors in Metro Manila and affected provinces including informal settlers, senior citizens, PWDs, and single parents.
“Vincent Helps is our attempt to organize charity from campaign, resource mobilization, social media platforms, advocacy, pastoral response, and spiritual integration,” Fr. Porcincula explained.
Despite having its headquarters at the Saint Vincent Seminary complex on Tandang Sora Avenue in Quezon City, Vincent Helps’ efforts have extended beyond the city’s borders to far-flung communities in Visayas and Mindanao.
“In Quezon City, we take care of our parishioners and conduct social programs like in our parishes in Payatas and Tandang Sora and a housing project in Bagong Silangan. But we also extend help to random requests from the Vincent Helps page and others requests from communities where we send our seminarians for their apostolate that is why we have been covering Valenzuela, Malabon, Caloocan, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasig, Makati. Outside Metro Manila we have served Rizal, Quezon Province, Pampanga, Bulacan, Samar, Compostela Valley and Misamis Occidental, although by request lang naman ito ng communities where we serve.” Fr. Porcincula said.
With the help of donors, Vincent Helps has expanded its pastoral program and relief operations from its weekly Free Pandesal for Breakfast Program (for 3,300 families in Payatas and 260 in Tandang Sora) and mobile soup kitchens to the distribution of grocery packs, rice, even meals through its Hot Meals on Wheels (2,400 meals per week).
Some generous donors contribute food items, while most of the donations are purchased from wholesalers. Many donors are Vincentian friends from all over the world. About 50 volunteers (priests, sisters, seminarians, staff, and parish youth) do the packing each day. Three times a week, a different set of volunteers prepares 400 cooked meals for homeless people and street dwellers. The distribution team brings the food packages to different drop off points or hubs located in depressed areas around Quezon City and nearby areas such as informal settler families living on the streets and under the bridges.
As of May 11, 2020, Vincent Helps has already bought/collected and distributed P13.9 million worth of grocery packs, pandesal, and hot meals to an average of 12,500 families per week, thanks to the generosity of its donors and the hard work of its volunteers.
“We conduct daily operations except for the soup kitchen which is every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Thursday is our rest day but we still do psychosocial integration and processing,” said Fr. Porcincula.
Aside from relief operations, Vincent Helps also engages in “spiritual nourishment.” Fr. Porcincula shared that they have daily online masses at 11 a.m. and a procession of the Blessed Sacrament in Tandang Sora communities every Sunday, both of which can be viewed via Facebook live.
“Vincent Helps is the Congregation’s modest contribution to ease the sufferings of the most vulnerable,” Fr. Porcincula added.
For more information follow the Vincent Helps page on Facebook.